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UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030

Global spending on research and development increased by 30% between 2007 and 2013, despite the pressures of the global financial crisis that unfolded in 2008. This is just one of the findings of the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, launched on 10 November in Paris. Published every five years, the series offers a comparison of key figures on the current status of scientific research, innovation and higher education around the world, along with predictions for future development. This year's edition presents an overview of trends shaping global research and development since 2007. The report shows that although spending on knowledge has increased in the face of the financial crisis, in higher income countries this was largely due to the private sector picking up the slack from public spending cuts. While science, technology and innovation as drivers of economic growth are part of national development agendas around the world, the geographic distribution of spending remains uneven: the four biggest spenders account for 73% of all global expenditure on R&D. The US boasts the largest share of global spending on R&D (28%), followed by China (20%) - who has now surpassed the EU (19%) - and Japan (10%). The increase in spending is reflected in the number of researchers worldwide, which has grown by 21% to 7.8 million since 2007. The geographic dispersion of researchers follows a pattern similar to investment distribution, with 72% of researchers worldwide concentrated in the "Big Five": the EU (22%), China (19%), the US (17%), Japan (8.5%) and Russia (6%). Women represent less than one third of world’s researchers (28%), but great strides are being made on the gender equality front in Latin America, Central Asia and the Caribbean (44%) as well as in the Arab world (37%), which have larger shares of female scientists than the EU (33%).

The recent years have also seen a parallel explosion in scientific publications, with their number increasing by 23% between 2008 and 2014. The EU still maintains its leading position in publications (34%), followed by the US (25%), but their respective shares have fallen, as China’s scientific output is on a spectacular upswing, having nearly doubled in the past five years to claim a 20% share of publications worldwide. With this surge in scientific productivity, China is reaping the rewards of increased investment in research in the recent years.